Grand Teton: Backpacking up to Marion Lake

In our earlier post we came up Granite Canyon Trail to the last campsite in  the Upper Granite Camping Zone of this section of Grant Teton National Park.  From this campsite distance to Marion Lake is less than two miles and as we prepared to leave, a backpacking group stopped by the campsite and told us they had camped at Marion the night before and had watched us from their campsite.  Accordingly, we didn’t think the hike to Marion was going to be too bad, even though this group used the term “switchbacks.” You can see below that looking from the campsite toward the escarpment on which the lake is located that it didn’t look too bad.

Our first campsite in Grand Teton's Granite Canyon near Marion Lake

Our first campsite in Grand Teton’s Granite Canyon near Marion Lake


Indeed for the first half mile, there was no problem except that we were going downhill most of the time.  I hate downhill for two reasons: they are tough on the knees and in this instance I knew it just made the inevitable uphill longer.


Down toward Granite Creek on the way to Marion Lake

We waded across Granite Creek at the bottom of the downhill pictured above  and the trail began to rise again. We crossed little streams and came to a junction with the trail from the South Granite Canyon Camping Zone where a sign  indicated that the Lake was only 0.9 miles away

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One of the small streams on the Granite Canyon trail toward Lake Marion

So we began to go up toward the lake.  Looking at a topo map would probably tell me that the climb was about a thousand feet, but I didn’t need to look.

4a. Looking back down Granite

Grand Tetons uphill on the way to Marion Lake

And then we hit the switchbacks.  Actually, at about this time some trail runners who had come down from the Tram passed us and as we watched them with their bear spray in one hand and water bottle in the other, we were a little in taken back by their lack of gear.  However, as one explained they were doing twenty miles and would sleep in a comfortable bed that evening.  We felt a lot better when we watched them walking the switchbacks ahead of us.

4c. Up to Marion Lake

Wildflowers obscure the switch-backs on the hill to Marion.

Although the thigh-high flowers were gorgeous, they hid the switch backs from view, but we  knew they were there from watching the runners.  The Marion Lake area was gorgeous with flowers and a number of pictures of them are on our Wildflower Post.


Looking down Granite Canyon in the Grand Teton NP

Then of course, there was more uphill.  Looking back down Granite Canyon, we laughed at the elevation gain from yesterday. Actually, we figured that this section of the hike would be our easiest section considering the distance we planned on the third day, so although we knew the uphill to Marion would be grueling first thing in the morning, we really we laughing about it most of the way up to the lake.  Eventually, the trail gave us a respite and leveled off for a few hundred yards.  Then as we passed through a stand of evergreen, we saw a boulder field that looked like the left overs of a quarrying operation, however, the quarryman was the ice and weather a 8000 feet above sea level.

4g. Approaching Marion

Level trail on the way to the boulder field before Marion Lake.

The path across the boulder field was really not where the boulders had been moved aside but you could tell that people had used that route to get across before .  As you can tell below, the cliffs that rose above our campsite in the first picture of this post were becoming more and more at eye level as we made our way up.

4h. Crossing the boulder field toward Marion Lake

Boulder field along the trail on the way to Marion Lake

Crossing the boulder field we knew we would soon see the last of Granite Canyon and that brought a sense of accomplishment and  was yet another  “different” trail.  More importantly we could begin to tell that we weren’t that far from the Lake.

5. Making Marion Lake

First view of Marion Lake

We came off the trail a few yards to the large boulders to the spot pictured above, dropped our packs on the rocks, and refreshed ourselves with a snack and water.   The thing you have to remember in this and any other blog about a Grand Teton NP vacation  is that you cannot capture the scenery in a camera lens.  Even Ansel Adams couldn’t.  The place was beautiful and made even more so by the effort it took to get to it.

Some people actually use this as a day hike stop over. They start at the top of the Tram, come by here and then head out Granite Canyon  to the trailhead or pick up the trail that runs back into Teton Village.  Others spend the night in one of the three campsites near the lake.  These campsites  are first come first serve and are located to the right of the lake in the picture above and to the left in the picture below.  As we noted above, from near the campsites you have a commanding view of the valley.



Wildflowers above Lake Marion

However, if you don’t climb up the hill on the other side of the lake you miss the iconic view looking back down on Marion. As we rose the wild flowers were spectacular.   And finally the view of Marion Lake from above was great. We turned our backs to Marion Lake and headed on up onto the Fox Creek  Pass and eventually to the Death Canyon Shelf where we would spend our second night of this marvelous trek.


Marion Lake from above


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